My children don’t like to look at me when I’m angry with them. It could be for good reason. Maybe the way my hair stands on end or my lips form that thin angry line freaks them out. Or maybe it’s how my dimples disappear and my voice goes all deep and parental.
Whatever it is, they bury their faces – in their arms, a pillow, my leg, and they refuse to look up.
“Look at me,” I’ll say, trying to keep my voice gentle. “Look at me, babe.”
A quick glance, then they dodge their head again.
“Come on, look me in the eyes.”
Another quick glance to turn away.
I take a deep breath, make my voice as soft as I can and say, “Honey, do you know why I want you to look at me?”
They know the routine. We’ve done this script a hundred times. Usually, though, it still takes a a little while for them to answer.
“Why do I want you to look at me?” I ask.
Depending on the child, they dodge it in their own way.
“I don’t know.”
“I know, but I still don’t want to.”
“Because you’re mean.”
I wait. I look. I ask God to give them eyes to see. Eventually they raise their eyes to mine. Some with a grimace, some with worry, some with the start of a smile they just can’t fight.
“What do you see?”
A grumble, a murmur, a slight smile. “Love, Mom. I see love.”
Then I start my mama lecture they could probably quote themselves. “That’s exactly right. I’m angry with you right now, but I want you to look me in the eyes because you have to see the love. I love you. I will never stop loving you. There is nothing you can say or do to make me stop loving you. I’m angry now, but I love you even as I’m angry. Do you get that? Do you know it?”
They know to respond or I’ll spend another good 20 minutes on it. “Yes, Mom, I get it.”
They want to stay mad. They fight to be angry. But the love softens them, softens me.
Right now I sit at a table on a personal retreat, taking some time with Jesus. I journaled this morning, read and came up with four things I really want to do better (the list is much longer, but I had to start somewhere) – as I was really diving in, I felt a whisper to my heart.
“Look at me.”
I sat still for just a moment and then went right back to fixing myself.
‘Look at me, Elsa.”
I looked. I sat. I wrote about his love. I cried. He loves me. He really loves me. When I sit in it, really sit in it, it softens me, melts me, changes me – fixes me.
And not just me.
He loves you. He really loves you. Look at him. Look now. Not just a quick glance to bury your head in your arm, in your life, in your busyness, in your fixing. Really look – and you’ll see it.
Look, friend. Look now.
Psalm 121:1 I lift my eyes to the hills from where my help comes…
Psalm 3:3 But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, and the lifter of my head.
Psalm 36:5 Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.
A week ago, Wilna and I had a rough spot. Intense words. Power struggle. We took it upstairs to the bedroom. I was so angry, my hands were shaking. She was too. I sat her on the bed. I had to do something or there was no way I was going to handle it well. “Wait here, I need to talk to Jesus before I talk to you.” I said it sharply. I went to the closet. Took ten deep breaths. Could barely get out a prayer. “Jesus, help. I need you. Speak through me. Give me words. Help me.”
Ten more deep breaths and I went back to the bedroom. I laid down beside her and started our routine. “Look at me, Wilna. Look at me, babe.”
A quick glance, then away.
“Look at me right now.” Another glance. “What do you see, babe?”
“I don’t know.” Sullen. Angry.
She looked, then buried her head into the pillow. “What did you see?”
My breath caught. Tears came to my own eyes. Could it be?
I can count a million parenting moments I looked nothing like him… this, this is what I long for all the time.
Oh God, may it be so. May I look to you, may we all look to you – so that even when we’re angry, even when life falls apart, even when we feel like we are going to lose it… may we look at you, feel your love, sit in your love, hold fast to you – so when others look, they see love. Even more, that they see you.
Oh, and friends, I will continue introducing the kiddos over the next few posts. I had to interrupt that process to share this one. I’ve introduced Wilna, Samantha, Lovence, Cassandra, and Laurentz – three more to go!